Hindsight is Always 20/20 – Vulture Chats with Hunting Grounds
After winning Triple J’s Unearthed High in 2009, and churning out two widely acclaimed EP’s in 2010 (Howl and Brothers in Violence), things went a little quiet in the Hunting Grounds (formerly Howl) camp. Until now, that is. Ahead of the release of their hotly anticipated debut album In Hindsight on July 6, we caught up with bassist Jonathan Crawford and, like an impatient mother who wanted you home before dark, demanded to know what took them so frickin’ long?
“In terms of our previous EP’s, they were very different, they were a lot heavier and more sort of punk rock driven I guess. We were trying to write in that vein for so long, and we wrote a lot of songs that we all just ended up not liking after a couple of weeks. But once we sort of figured out that we didn’t have to write that kind of music anymore, it became a really fast process, because we really liked the music we were writing and it just sort of fell out of us, it came really naturally.” So what brought on this change in musical direction? “I think it was the change in our musical tastes and what we’ve been listening to as a band, and also the influence of the producer [Paul] Woody Annison – he grew up with and loves late 80’s post punk and shoegaze and stuff like that. The sound is definitely influenced by him”
One thing that strikes you about Hunting Grounds is that they are young. Too young, it would seem, to be producing the kind of anthemic, mature rock that makes up the somewhat ironically titled debut album In Hindsight. After winning Triple J’s Unearthed High in 2009 and being justifiably thrust into the spotlight, Crawford admits that as a group, they had to grow up pretty quickly. “I think as a band we were forced into the music industry, which we had no idea about. We definitely made some mistakes at the start and we’re still making mistakes but I think we’re finally getting there. I think for a lot of bands who progress naturally, they learn these things as they go, but when we were 18 and some of us were 17, and we won the competition, we had no idea what we were doing, none of our families did, we had no one to guide us at all.” He is quick to point out that while everyone they’ve worked with has had mountains of integrity, the shaky state of the music industry means that young bands can never be too careful. “I think the music industry is quite scared because of the money issue. So there’s a lot of people who try to make money in dodgy ways that you have to careful of. You can get ripped off pretty easily – we’ve known a few bands who haven’t ended their careers on such a high note because they haven’t been managed well”.
Their upcoming tour takes in dates all over the country, including some regional stops like their hometown in country Victoria. So far they’ve resisted the urge to relocate to a major city like Melbourne or Sydney, and Crawford explains the connection to where they grew up. “We’re still all in Ballarat. Ballarat shows are always really good, just because all of our friends are there and we always have a great night. The Korova Lounge is like home to us, before we won the [Unearthed] competition in 2009, I reckon we played there once a month. Every band that came through there we got put on the first support slot, so we owe A LOT to Korova Lounge. So when we play there it’s pretty awesome, I love it there”.
And as for the album itself – It’s big. Widescreen big. IMAX big. Bigger than what you’d expect from hearing their earlier work, with well-placed synths and guitars that drench you with sound taking the place of the one-two punches of the Howl days that seemed to be arrive, smash you in the face, and then be over before they’d even begun. Even the songs that are closer to their brattish first single ‘Blackout’ (like the very punky ‘Kill Your Friends’ and ‘Star Shards’) have an epic edge to them. The personal growth Crawford mentioned earlier is reflected in the soaring vocals of tracks like ‘Liquid Air’, and first single ‘In Colour’, as the alternating trio of vocalists who front the band (Lachlan Morrish, Michael Belsar and Galen Strachan) have developed their voices from the sneery, abrasive nature of the first two EP’s. Second single ‘Flaws’ is as poppy as the album gets, but the feelings of wonder and majesty it evokes fit in perfectly with the rest of In Hindsight.
Balance seems to be the best word to describe In Hindsight – there’s a lot going on with this album, but never too much. Hunting Grounds explore some interesting ideas, but always avoid being over the top or dramatic. It all feels very real, and is the sound of a band who have honed a sound, not one who are just starting to come to grips with the music they want to make.